How To Treat A Sunburned Skin
While the immediate symptoms of a sunburn are only temporary, the long-term damage is permanent and can emerge years later. Read on for our guide to caring for sunburned skin - and how you can prevent it from occurring in the first place.
What Causes A Sunburn?
A sunburn is skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. When your skin is exposed to UV rays, it releases a pigment called melanin to protect itself. Melanin acts as a natural sunscreen by absorbing the energy from UV rays and redistributing it. However, it can only provide so much protection - if you are spending too much time in the sun, your tan can quickly become a sunburn.
The difference between UVA Vs. UVB Rays
UVA rays can penetrate your skin more deeply and cause your skin cells to age prematurely. About 95 percent of the UV rays that reach the ground are UVA rays. The other 5 percent of UV rays are UVB. They have higher energy levels than UVA rays, and typically damage the outermost layers of your skin, causing sunburn.
Why a sunburn is bad for my skin?
Aside from the immediate pain and discomfort, sunburn also causes long-lasting damage to the skin. Sunburn contributes to premature ageing in the form of fine lines, wrinkles, sagging skin and sun spots. They also play a major role in the development of skin cancer.
The symptoms of sunburned skin include redness, pain and/or tenderness, heat, itchiness, swelling and small blisters. It’s recommended to visit a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms, such as fever, faintness, rapid pulse, nausea, chills, confusion and large, painful blisters.
How to protect your skin from a sunburn
Before Sun Exposure
Rule number one of sun protection: Always apply a sunscreen sunscreen. But, which one? Equally effective, they simply differ in their active ingredients and how they protect the skin. Chemical sunscreens are “absorbers” that convert UV rays into heat before releasing them from the skin. Physical sunscreens create a protective barrier that blocks and reflects UV rays before they make contact with the skin’s surface. No matter which you choose, we recommend reaching for a broad-spectrum formula that will protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
During Sun Exposure
It’s crucial that you continue to protect your skin throughout the day to avoid sun damage. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Seek shade between the hours of 10AM and 4PM, when UV rays are at their most intense.
- Beware reflective surfaces: Water, snow and sand reflect UV rays and increase the risk of sunburn.
- Cover up with a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing with UPF (Ultraviolet Protective Factor) 40 or more.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, or after 40 minutes if you’re swimming or sweating.
- Head indoors at the first sign of sunburn.
After Sun Exposure: What Helps Sunburn?
Stay Hydrated: Inside & Out
To counteract the drying effects of a sunburn, you should drink plenty of water and load up on hydrating fruits and vegetables. Keeping your skin hydrated is also key for a good recovery.
Cool Your Skin Down
After a sunburn, it’s important to cool your skin down. You can take a cool bath or shower to soothe redness and dryness - but skip the soap, which can irritate scorched skin. If cool water isn’t cutting it, apply a cold compress to the burn. Pour water and ice into a bowl, soak a cloth in the liquid and hold it over the burn. Each of these methods will help absorb heat from your skin and minimise swelling.
Soothe & Repair Red, Dry Skin
Sunburn can leave your skin red, dry and raw. To repair dryness, reach for moisturising oils and lotions that include soothing ingredients such as rosemary, arnica, rosehip and stone crop.
It may be tempting, but don’t pull at, pick or exfoliate your sunburned skin. As your skin heals, healthy skin cells rise to the surface and the sun-damaged cells naturally flake and peel off. These new cells are delicate and susceptible to irritation: picking and prodding will only make your sunburn look - and feel - worse.